Thursday, December 20, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager’s Next Preposterous Remake Of “The Big Goodbye” Is “Fair Haven!”

The Good: Moments of concept, Decent guest acting
The Bad: Skirts the character aspects, Very familiar and obvious plot, Lack of chemistry between Mulgrew and McKeown, Spatial phenomenon makes no real sense.
The Basics: “Fair Haven” puts Voyager in the midst of a stellar phenomenon where they might just lose their latest Holodeck program.

By the time “Fair Haven” comes up in Star Trek: Voyager, it is only neophyte Trekker who cannot call the entire plot from the first few frames of the episode. The Holodeck adventure archetype, first created in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “The Big Goodbye” (reviewed here!) is the repetitive epic of the modern Star Trek series’. The plot, which is much of the plot of “Fair Haven,” has a new Holodeck program introduced. Then, when key personnel are inside the simulation, the safeties get turned off and life and limb are threatened.

“Fair Haven” shakes up the formula some, largely by mixing the predictable elements with relationship elements that harken back to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “His Way” (reviewed here!). “Fair Haven” is threatened, without the crew coming to peril from the Holodeck simulation itself. But the thrust of the episode has Janeway getting into a relationship on the Holodeck, one of the less inspired relationships in the Star Trek franchise.

Shortly after Tom Paris creates the Irish town of Fair Haven on the Holodeck, the U.S.S. Voyager encounters a Class 9 Neutronic wave front. As they prepare for the onslaught of the wavefront, Janeway visits Fair Haven and enjoys an evening with the bartender at the pub there. She is disappointed when Michael Sullivan turns out to be dumb as a post . . . and married. So, Janeway alters his parameters to make him more appealing to her.

As the relationship between Janeway and Michael deepens, she develops an emotional attachment to him. When the wavefront hits, Voyager takes a little bit of a beating and over the three days Voyager is inside the anomaly, power reserves force the crew to risk Fair Haven to keep the ship intact.

“Fair Haven” is, one can only assume, what happens when people complain that there have not been any Irish characters on Star Trek and the writers belabor a story to meet the needs of those five complaining fans. The episode is riddled with problems, both nitpicky and philosophical, and ends up as one of the least memorable episodes of the series.

First, the conflict in “Fair Haven” is entirely forced. In order to care that Fair Haven might be lost when the ship is threatened, the viewer (and the crew) have to care about how the Holodeck story has developed. Fair Haven, however, is all about setting, not story. Tom Paris has created an environment, not a plotline. Ergo, the sense of menace in “Fair Haven” is predicated entirely on the idea that . . . Tom Paris has not saved a copy of the program he wrote. Yes, the episode is that inconsequential.

So, one need look at the philosophy of the episode. “Fair Haven” explores the question of what kind of relationship is appropriate for Janeway on her journey home? Given that she has never wooed a member of the crew under her command and Star Trek Voyager is obsessed with enforcing ridiculous puritanical sexual mores that prevent her from hooking up with any alien that pops aboard for the week (a la James T. Kirk), “Fair Haven” explores the notion of Janeway creating (or adapting) a holographic lover.

“Fair Haven” lamely has Chakotay chiding Janeway about the relationship and Janeway – who seems to have accepted the Doctor as an individual and a lifeform – presenting a remarkably limited viewpoint on the subject. So, Janeway wants a relationship with Michael Sullivan, but feels silly about it when she leaves the Holodeck and feels guilty for using him to get her rocks off (or whatever the feminine equivalent of that is!). Given Janeway’s early Holodeck adventures in a gothic romance setting, one has to wonder how it is she has gone six years without getting into Holodeck, er, “romance.” “Fair Haven” does not seem to know what Janeway it wants to explore in the episode and ends up with an incredibly inconsistent rendition of the character (it is almost like each act was written by a different person).

On the detail front, “Fair Haven” creates an anomaly that is more or less ill-conceived, illustrating two-dimensional thinking. The Neutronic Wave Front is illustrated on the screen as a wavefront, expanding out in two dimensions. The solution to the spatial anomaly problem, then, would be for the ship to use the time it has before the wavefront hits to go up or down to avoid the wave. If the Neutronic anomaly is supposed to be spherical, the power and intensity of it is vastly understated for the depth of the wavefront.  As well, Janeway references thunderstorms in Indiana that scared her as a little girl, but in the Star Trek universe, Earth has a weather control system, so she never should have been caught by violent thunderstorms like that.

While the special effects of “Fair Haven” are decent, the acting is anything but. Jeri Ryan cracks a smile during the hilarious scene where Tuvok experiences spacesickness, a simple move that is not justified by her humorless character who has to share the personal tastes of Neelix, Paris, and Kim in order to get the joke and derive amusement from Tuvok’s discomfort. As well, Mulgrew and Fintan McKeown, who plays Michael Sullivan, have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. Mulgrew discussed the lack of attraction at the first convention she and McKeown attended together (it is unclear whether or not she knew McKeown was at the convention when she spoke candidly about how little attraction she had for him). Mulgrew, at the time “Fair Haven” was produced, was a (relatively) newlywed woman and she seems to have brought that to her performance; she clearly has no eyes for McKeown and as he is supposed to be her character’s ultimate man, it falls incredibly flat.

Further analysis is actually pointless; “Fair Haven” is an insubstantial episode and every thread begun here fails to bear fruit in future episodes, making it . . . well, pretty much the archetypal “crew gets lost in the Holodeck” style episode.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season here!

For other works with Richard Riehle, please visit my reviews of:
Aaah! Zombies!!
Office Space
“Becoming, Part I” - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“The Inner Light” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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